East Texas lawmakers sign letter calling for STAAR exams to be canceled this year

Rep. Travis Clardy joins lawmakers in signing the letter
A calculator and a STARR test answer sheet on a desk at Elsik High School in 2018.
A calculator and a STARR test answer sheet on a desk at Elsik High School in 2018.(Pu Ying Huang for The Texas Tribune)
Updated: Nov. 19, 2020 at 2:12 PM CST
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AUSTIN, Texas (KLTV) - Several Texas House representatives from East Texas have signed a letter calling for the Texas Education Agency to cancel this school year’s State of Texas Assessments of Academic Readiness exam, or at least not use the assessment as a part of the state’s existing accountability system.

East Texas lawmakers who signed the letter include:

  • HD 57 Rep. Trent Ashby
  • HD 11 Rep. Travis Clardy
  • HD 7 Rep. Jay Dean
  • HD 8 Rep. Cody Harris

The letter, written by Rep. Diego M. Bernal, D-San Antonio, is addressed to Texas Education Agency Commissioner Mike Morath.

“Commissioner Morath:

We are writing to request that, for the 2020-2021 school year, the Texas Education Agency seek the waivers necessary from the United States Department of Education for federal testing and accountability requirements to cancel the administration of the State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness (STAAR) exam. At most, any administration of the STAAR exam during the 2020-2021 school year should only serve as a diagnostic instrument to see where our students stand academically as opposed to an assessment instrument to determine district and campus sanctions under the current A-F accountability system.

As the Commissioner of the Texas Education Agency, you and your staff have witnessed firsthand the difficulties COVID19 has presented to our educators, our students, and their families; in every aspect of life, nothing has been left untouched or unaffected by this pandemic. Given the agency’s understanding of the anticipated impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic on public education in this State, we appreciate the agency’s foresight by waiving the Student Success Initiative promotion requirements for the 2020-2021 school year , however, we believe that the agency should also recognize that the effects of this ongoing pandemic extend beyond concerns regarding promotion and retention of students and will also impact an accountability system that heavily weighs campus and district performance on student achievement and growth.

The COVID Slide , an academic deficit that the agency has widely recognized, has resulted in students, across the state, being behind grade-level in nearly every subject. Instead of proceeding with the administration of the STAAR exam as planned, the agency, along with our districts and campuses, should be focused on providing high-quality public education with an emphasis on ensuring the health and safety of students and educators. While data from the STAAR exam may be a good indicator of where our students are currently, the data should be used in a manner to chart a path forward as opposed to being used to sanction our districts and campuses.

We appreciate your time regarding this issue. Our offices stand ready to assist you and the agency in any manner you deem necessary.”

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